BrightStar Care Scales Back Growth Plans for Senior Living Franchise Model

After announcing it was branching out into senior living, home care franchise company BrightStar Care has shifted its aims for growing out its BrightStar Senior Living brand.

Gurnee, Illinois-based BrightStar Care is one of the largest providers of home care in the nation, with more than 300 locations in 37 states. The first assisted living and memory care community from the company opened in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2014. Currently, there’s only one other BrightStar Senior Living community that’s actively under construction, and it’s in Waunakee, Wisconsin, approximately 13 miles north of the Madison property.

One open community and one under construction represents a far cry from the growth BrightStar had originally predicted for its franchise-based senior housing model. In 2015, the company was planning a five-year, 100-community assisted living pipeline, using a franchising model similar to that which the company has used to expand its home care business. In this model, franchisors own and operate the property but pay a franchise fee to BrightStar, in exchange for operational support in areas such as marketing and technology. BrightStar can also help guide franchisees through the various phases of the construction process.

Now, BrightStar Senior Living intends to grow to a fifth of that size, at most, by 2020. And it’s no longer comparing the resident experience of its communities to that of staying at a Four Seasons hotel or shopping at Neiman Marcus—wanting to downplay luxury and emphasize a homelike atmosphere.

Scaling back

BrightStar Senior Living certainly isn’t growing as quickly as its leaders had planned.

“We’ve definitely scaled back,” Andrew Lynch, senior vice president of BrightStar Senior Living, told Senior Housing News.

As it stands, BrightStar plans to have between 16 and 20 senior housing communities open by 2020, “definitely not 100.” The change in growth trajectory was driven in part by the desires of BrightStar’s investor community.

“They wanted more examples of successful execution, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Lynch explained.

BrightStar does anticipate ultimately reaching 100 assisted living and memory care franchise locations.

“We’ll still get to 100, it just won’t be in 2020,” Lynch said.

More communities are indeed in the works—BrightStar is about to break ground on a 41-unit community in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, according to Sharon Roth Maguire, chief clinical quality officer at BrightStar Group Holdings.

From Neiman Marcus to Pottery Barn

Back in 2013, BrightStar CEO Shelly Sun said the company’s senior housing communities would offer residents “a Four Seasons-Neiman Marcus kind of experience.” This has been a guiding principle of the BrightStar Care approach to home care.

Now, though, that description is not as apt for senior living, Maguire suggested.

After all, BrightStar’s current community and planned communities are “not palatial, and what I perceive as exaggerated in some senior living communities,” Maguire told Senior Housing News.

“I often say, we don’t do waterfalls of chandeliers,” she continued. “When we talk about premium, person-centered care, it’s really that level of connection and service at the point of care in an environment that really is conducive to that lifestyle the resident wants to experience.”

Instead, BrightStar Senior Living is aiming to conjure up a more homelike atmosphere.

“We’re kind of like the Pottery Barn feeling—so not ostentatious, but really premium and lovely and supportive,” Maguire said.

Still, BrightStar Senior Living does aim to attract residents who require complex care, and the provider’s prices reflect that.

“Care can be costly, and we’re not embarrassed by that or ashamed of that because we provide services that many other assisted living providers shy away from,” Maguire said.

BrightStar doesn’t envision developing communities that are larger than 42 or 44 units, and it intends to have a high manager-to-resident ratio at each property.

“We have a full slate of leaders—a full-time executive director, full-time director of health and wellness, full-time chef, full-time life enrichment coordinator, full-time life enrichment manager… for such a small community, that’s really rare,” Maguire said.

This collection of staff leaders can help enable franchisors who may have no senior living experience to run their own BrightStar community.

“If you don’t have any senior housing experience at all, because of the experience that we bring and the tools, resources, and training materials, you can [run a community],” Maguire concluded.

The owners of the first BrightStar Senior Living in Madison—Jeffrey Tews and Susan Rather—were successful owners of BrightStar home care businesses in that market prior to starting the assisted living franchise. They are achieving financial success in the form of a 10% margin, they told SHN last fall.

Tews and Rather will also run the Waunakee building that is under construction and anticipate a higher 15% margin there, as they will see some staffing synergies and other economies of scale.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

PHOTO CREDIT: BrightStar Senior Living Community: BrightStar Senior Living

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Mary Kate Nelson
Assistant Editor at Aging Media Network
When not in the newsroom, Mary Kate can reliably be found reading on her back porch, marathoning TV shows she’s already seen or overspending at Trader Joe’s.

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